On Memorial Day, I spent part of my morning mountain biking on trails 308, 345 and 347 on the east side of Granite Mountain. Each of these trails is accessible from the Williamson Valley Trailhead off Williamson Valley Road.
While biking, I had one of those “wow!” moments when I saw a beautiful male American Goldfinch in full breeding plumage. This is an uncommon winter visitor that should probably be gone already. I am frequently asked by customers why the abundant goldfinch species that we have in the Prescott area year-round is called a “lesser” goldfinch. I hate to admit it, but as pretty as our lesser goldfinches are, when you see a male American goldfinch in breeding plumage, it is obvious why our local goldfinch species is called a “lesser” goldfinch.
After seeing the American goldfinch, and contemplating the fact that it was Memorial Day, I couldn’t help but think how appropriate it was that I saw an American goldfinch on this special American holiday. As I continued biking, I created in my mind a patriotic theme with the birds I was seeing.
The next beautiful bird I saw was along Mint Creek, which by the way, is still running! This time it was a stunning male summer tanager, which is brilliant red. Now, all I needed to find was a bird with white plumage, not an easy task based on where I was. In this part of Arizona, we don’t see too many white birds, although during migration we do get American pelicans, and some gull and tern species which are predominantly white. Well, no luck on that in the National Forest.
I didn’t even have to go looking to find a bird with blue plumage. Right near Mint Creek was a singing male blue grosbeak. I may not have come up with a white bird to wrap up my patriotic theme of red, white and blue birds on Memorial Day, but I sure enjoyed the beautiful birds I saw!
On a slightly different note, last Thursday I led a Jay’s Bird Barn bird walk in Watson Woods. We had so many interesting experiences. We saw a deer, we found a hummingbird building a nest in a willow tree, we saw a red-tailed hawk carrying a mouse in its talons, we saw a raven eating something that we had no idea what it was, we saw several snakes and found two snake skins, and we discovered that the great-horned owl nest and the bushtit nest by the pond in Watson Woods were both destroyed. Bird walks are a lot more than just listening to and looking for birds. It is an opportunity to spend time in nature, experiencing nature.
This past weekend we had several male western tanagers in our yard visiting our recirculating waterfall and pond. Males have an orange head, yellow body and black wings-it is a striking combination of colors. This is an example of a species that summers and breeds at the higher elevations around Prescott, so if you live in town and are seeing them they will be moving on soon.
Tonight is the Prescott Audubon Society’s last monthly meeting before it takes a break for the summer. This evening at 7 p.m., at Trinity Presbyterian Church, in Prescott, Zen Mocarski with the Arizona Game and Fish Department will be discussing wildlife adaptations, which make it possible for animals to live in a desert environment. I hope to see you there-it should be very interesting!
Until next week, Happy Birding!